You might find this Mexican native cactus also being branded as the Gold Lace Lady Finger Cactus or by its scientific name “Mammillaria Elongata”.
Usually made of several tube like shapes covered with spikes, the Ladyfinger Cactus is, like the Bishop’s Cap Cactus, another great one for a novice cactus collector.
The cactus gets its name from the long finger like stems that emanate from the base of the plant. These can be any number, any length and any size up to twenty centimeters in height, so no one plant is the same!
Do not be put off by the spikes on the Ladyfinger Cactus – they are harmless although may give you a bit of a shock. They are a brown color, and therefore give the Ladyfinger a golden hue.
Let’s check out all you need to know about caring for this frequently purchases member of the cactus species.
- 1 Ladyfinger Cactus Care
- 2 Common Problems with the Ladyfinger Cactus
- 3 Frequently asked questions about the Lady Finger Cactus
- 4 Conclusion
Ladyfinger Cactus Care
The Ladyfinger Cactus enjoys a bright, sunny position on the windowsill. This is because it will require up to 6 hours of direct sunlight in order to thrive. Make sure however that young plants are not overexposed – better to keep them in indirect sunlight. Temperatures should not drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. For watering, stick to a schedule used for cacti – that is, once a week at the very most. Do not water if the soil is moist. The soil in which you place the Ladyfinger should be a well-draining mix of potting soil with sand, add some gravel too if you wish.
Generally fairly low maintenance, you’ll be able to manage the care of this cactus by keeping an eye out for pests and checking for signs of fungal infections.
Your Ladyfinger Cactus will enjoy hours of direct sunlight, but will generally do OK in partial shade. Try to situate it in a window that gets as much sunlight as possible.
The mature adult Ladyfinger Cactus will want about 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. So bear that in mind as you decide what position it will take when it joins your collection.
Be careful with young and immature plants however. These need protection from the sun’s strong rays.
For your fledgling cacti, make sure to keep them in an area that gets plenty of bright, indirect sunlight and only expose them gradually to the sun’s rays much later on.
Many cacti have weaker root systems than other plants, and therefore are extremely prone to diseases such as root rot.
The Ladyfinger Cactus is no exception. If it has its roots sitting in pooled water for any length of time, or if this occurs frequently, your cactus could be in danger.
Excessive watering or poor draining soil are the 2 most common factors leading to root rot. So, you will need to follow a consistent but light watering schedule.
For the Ladyfinger, this watering schedule may only happen once or twice a month in the summer, and rarely in the winter.
If you feel like watering, give the soil a feel. If you have any traces of moisture whatsoever, then leave it a few more days. Better to underwater than overwater with cacti. Don’t water if the soil is moist.
In the winter, the cactus will go into a rest period. This is brought on generally by lower temperatures and light levels.
At this point, ease back on the watering completely, only giving it the odd dose when the soil becomes completely dry.
Soil and water are interconnected when it comes to cacti. Remembering we do not want to overwater, or to have the roots sitting in any pooled water, we need a soil with good drainage.
You can purchase potting soil specifically for cacti in many garden centers. You may prefer to make you own too, depending on how active you are.
Simply mix a standard potting mix with sand, you can also through in a few stones for good measure if you desire.
Before planting your cactus into its new home, make sure you also have a drainage hole or 2 at the bottom of the pot.
The Ladyfinger will do fine in general household temperatures. If it is in danger of becoming exposed to temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it will suffer.
So if you were tempted to bring it outside on a warm spring day and then forgot to bring it back inside, you could have an issue.
You can get some beautiful yellow or white flowers off this interesting plant. This usually occurs just after the winter period in early spring.
It is important for the vibrancy of any flowers produced that you let the cactus have a rest period in the winter.
Do not be tempted to artificially recreate summer during the cooler and darker months. The rest period, with reduced watering and light, will yield stronger displays of flowers!
The Ladyfinger Cactus will generally do OK in household environments. Whilst the optimal conditions would be an arid environment typical to Mexico, it will survive just fine indoors.
During the winter months the indoor environment will likely be fairly arid anyway. In the summer, if you suspect the air is too humid, you can reduce watering a little.
And whilst is it popular to keep cacti in the bath for aesthetic reasons, you should probably steer clear of this trend. The bathroom is too humid an environment in which this cactus can thrive.
The Ladyfinger Cactus can be propagated from both seeds and offshoots or cuttings. The most popular method is by the offshoots that appear at the base of the mature adult cactus.
Propagation by offshoot – Step by Step
- Removing the offshoot: You can remove your offshoot easily and carefully by hand or with a sharp and sterile knife.
- Preparing the offshoot: The offshoot of the Ladyfinger Cactus will need little preparation. Simply place it somewhere safe for a few days until it begins to dry out.
- Soil and planting: Once dry, place your offshoot in the potting soil of your choice.
- Watering: Keep the soil slightly damp until the offshoots have taken hold
- Pots: Once they are established and strong, you can move your seedlings into a second pot. From there, follow the general watering guidelines.
Check the roots of your Ladyfinger Cactus once a year, preferably as the first signs of spring appear. If you think the roots are becoming cramped, tangled and condensed, it is time to make the move to a pot once size up.
If not, and the roots still have ample room to grow, you may wish to replace the soil mix and refresh the environment with a slow-release fertilizer .
The Ladyfinger Cactus is a slow grower. This makes it a really good candidate for indoor growing, as it can spend a good amount of time in one container without feeling confined.
Generally, the largest “finger” will get to about 8 inches tall. The other fingers will combine together to make a plant that is around 12 inches across.
Apart from the slow growth, the Ladyfinger is also a great candidate for households as it is not known to be toxic for either humans or pets. Don’t let them eat it anyway, just to be safe.
Common Problems with the Ladyfinger Cactus
We think the Ladyfinger Cactus is a great choice for the novice cactus collector! It needs little care apart from the basics, and can generally be left alone for want of a few trips for watering.
Having said that, you can easily get into trouble if you neglect the tips we have put forward in this guide. They may seem simple, but really they do help a cactus thrive!
A common theme you will find on our succulent and cacti guides is the reference to root rot. This is unfortunately an all too frequent problem and can quickly be fatal.
Excessive watering or poorly draining soil are the 2 most common factors leading to root rot. Water clogged, the soil lacks oxygen, which in turn causes the roots to rot.
The issue here is that, once the external symptoms of this aggressive condition become apparent, it is often too late.
At the point where you may see sogginess in the base of the plant or other telltale signs such as browning of the stems, the roots will likely be past the point of no return
I have seen instances where the entire cactus falls over, or lifts like soggy paper from the soil. At this point, there is little to be done to save it.
Keep your Ladyfinger safe from root rot and its associated fungal infections by maintain a dry environment, infrequent watering, and a vigilance for telltale signs of “softness” or discoloration around the base.
Pests and Insects
Generally fairly pest-free, the Ladyfinger Cactus sometimes gets the odd unwelcome visitor. Mealybugs are certainly the most common little fellas that like to show up. Get rid of them immediately, or they can cause significant damage to your cactus.
Mealybugs penetrate the fleshy core of the cactus and start to extract the nutrients and other goodness from the stems.
Best to inspect your Ladyfinger daily to ensure you catch the first sign.
Otherwise, you’ll need to treat with an insecticide. We generally try to stay away from these if possible however. If you want, you could try first a mixture of washing up liquid with water to see if that helps.
Generally drought tolerant, you can usually get away with a few weeks without watering. During the winter months, the Lady Finger needs even less water.
The Lady Finger LOVES the sun. But even this resilient cactus can suffer sunburn. Move it to shade if you feel the rays are too strong on a particular day.
Frequently asked questions about the Lady Finger Cactus
My Lady Finger Cactus looks unwell. What is causing it?
Suspect your Lady Finger Cactus is a little under the weather? There are usually only a small number of factors that are stopping this cool plant looking its best.
Check the basics – make sure the soil is dry, the watering schedule is not too frequent, and the base is not too damp. Check your light is sufficient – an adult Lady Finger needs up to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Why is my Ladyfinger Cactus lifting out of the soil?
If you notice your cactus is losing its upright position, and if it seems to be coming away from the base, then you may have an issue with the root structure
Unfortunately, the most likely cause is a very hard one to treat – the dreaded root rot. Try to save your plant by drying out the roots and replanting in a soil mixes with sand.
You may also try a fungicide if you wish. If you have caught it early enough, you may have a chance to save the cactus.
Can I go on vacation without watering my Ladyfinger Cactus?
You can probably leave your cactus a couple of weeks in the summer months without watering. More in the winter!
Why is my Ladyfinger Cactus not producing flowers?
Make sure your Ladyfinger Cactus is getting enough sunlight. Crucial too for this cactus is a good period of rest – dormancy – in the winter. If you don’t let it rest it won’t be ready to produce the blooms you want.
This irregular-shaped cactus is a very common sight in many household collections. We are sure it will be a great addition to your collection in yours, particularly if you are a beginner.
Follow the tips in this guide and you will be able to enjoy the Ladyfinger Cactus all year round!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.